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In the Shadow of Djoser’s Pyramid

Research of Polish Archaeologists in Saqqara

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Karol Jan Myśliwiec

The book presents the discoveries made by the Polish archaeological mission in Saqqara, the central part of the largest ancient Egyptian royal necropolis. The area adjacent to the Pyramid of King Djoser on the monument’s west side, so far neglected by archaeologists, turned out to be an important burial place of the Egyptian nobility from two periods of Pharaonic history: the Old Kingdom (the late third millennium BC) and the Ptolemaic Period (the late first millennium BC). The earlier, lower cemetery yielded rock-hewn tombs with splendid wall decoration in relief and painting. The book also describes methods of conservation applied to the discovered artefacts and episodes from the mission’s life.

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Chapter 8. The vizier’s posthumous neighbour

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Chapter 8. The vizier’s posthumous neighbour

Abstract: The discovery of Temi’s eternal abode. Unfinished reliefs and paintings unveil the artist’s workmanship. One wife and many sons. A family panorama without daughters. Clever but vain calculations of the tomb owner.

Keywords: progeny, iconography, catastrophe, polychromy, preliminary drawing.

We had not yet finished the exploration of Vizier Merefnebef’s tomb as we already knew that he had a neighbour. In addition, it had to be a neighbour of similar rank for the preserved brickwork wall of his mastaba corresponded in terms of its size and structure to a similar but better-preserved fragment of the first mastaba’s superstructure (Fig. 88). The dried bricks were of an identical size and texture, and they had also been laid in the same way. We uncovered the first course of brickwork from the new mastaba while cleaning the surface of the ground at the northern face of Merefnebef’s tomb (Il. 22).1 The surface betrayed a beautifully modelled recessed wall, i.e. with sequences of niches looking like a brick miniature of the facing in the colossal stone wall encircling Djoser’s pyramid. A few beer jars were lying right next to the vizier’s mastaba, while – at a distance of less than a metre from it – the bottom layer of the bricks from an identical sepulchral structure.

In the course of further cleaning, it turned out that both tomb structures were connected with each other by a row of bricks extending the eastern face of the vizier’s mastaba northwards.2 The method of linking the two aligned walls left no doubts that the integration of the mastabas into a single whole was secondary and was done when the new cult chapel was being connected with the east wall of Fefi’s tomb. In the process of extending this wall northward and integrating it with the wall of the new mastaba, care was shown to maintain the aesthetics of the vizier’s tomb. As a result, its secondary chapel, described above (chapter 5), came to be located in the middle of the long wall, not in the corner of his own mastaba. Even these seemingly insignificant details gave us a lot of food for thought. It could immediately be assumed that the owner of the new tomb stood slightly lower in the social hierarchy than his southern neighbour, since the descendants of the latter could make use of the former’s place of eternal rest in a way that was at the very least flippant if not simply ruthless.

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Soon, yet another element of the new tomb was revealed. In the spot where the layer of loose sand met the surface of a vertical rock wall, a small hollow had formed, in which it was possible to note a sculpted corner. Its shape suggested that the two adjoining walls of the structure, the horizontal and the vertical one, formed a corner in this spot.3 A few swings of the hoe would suffice to expose part of the architrave, perhaps immediately identifying the owner of the tomb. Instead, we hurriedly encased the spot in ←254 | 255→fragments of rock and covered it with sand, so no one’s fevered imagination would lead them to succumb to temptation. We decided to wait with revealing the new mastaba until Merefnebef’s tomb was stably secured by conservators, studied, documented and prepared for scholarly publication by archaeologists. If it were to turn out that the mastaba’s bad state of preservation required the immediate work of many restorers and Egyptologists, this might have exceeded our possibilities. We had in our mind’s eye images of the countless monuments, including tombs and ancient temple ruins from various periods, which had at one point disintegrated almost completely after being discovered, simply due to their hurried exploration not accompanied by conservation work. If Egyptian reliefs sometimes seem monotonously grey or white, in many cases this is because no one thought to secure the rich polychromy right after they had been discovered.

Testing our archaeological patience, but also our imagination, lasted six years (Figs. 88–90). In 2003, Merefnebef’s tomb had been excavated, its documentation finished and the publication was ready. We had prepared comprehensive documentation in the form of illustrations, photographs (both black and white and in colour) and descriptions. The rock, mortar and pigments had been analysed from every possible angle in the specialised laboratories of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, the National Museum in Warsaw, the Warsaw University of Technology and the University of Warsaw, as a result of which the restorers could choose the appropriate chemicals and methods to secure the art works from thousands of years ago.4 Thorough Egyptological studies into the epoch and the monument enabled the reconstruction of the role played by this exceptional person, Merefnebef, in the final period of the Old Kingdom. After six years of the painstaking work of many experts from various academic fields, a two-volume monograph in English was ready to go to print.5

Finally, we could indulge in the luxury of unearthing the neighbouring tomb. We knew already that it had been hewn out into the same rock ledge running meridionally in which the vizier’s grave was located, on the latter’s northern side (Il. 22; Figs. 9192). However, as everywhere else at the cemetery we were excavating, the Lower Necropolis was covered by a thick layer or aeolian sand, containing hundreds of burials dated to a period later by 2000 years, i.e. to the epoch of the Ptolemies.6 It took us a few weeks to unearth and record the mummies, sometimes shrouded in polychrome cartonnage, frequently deposited in anthropoid-shaped wooden coffins. The state of preservation of some burials made it impossible to move the mummies to our anthropological field laboratory before they were consolidated by the restorers, which in the case of some bodies and coffins lasted a few days. The slightest breeze could in a second transform the colourful paintings on the surface of the thin plaster coating into powder.

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When we finally reached the Old Kingdom layer (Fig. 91), we took the greatest care to analyse every lump of earth, sand or rock so as not to miss even the smallest artefact that might aid us in gaining and understanding the monument that was being unearthed. At one point, the upper edge of a rock surface was revealed, hewn in the shape of an architrave crowning a cult chapel. Its form and size were similar as in the case of the vizier’s tomb, but the state of preservation was much poorer than its neighbour’s. The inscription on the inner architrave, which – as in Fefi’s tomb – runs the whole length of the façade, just above the narrow entrance to the tomb chapel, was also much more damaged than in the case of the tomb found first.7 We should be able to read the tomb owner’s name at the end of this inscription (Figs. 157158). As luck would have it, precisely this fragment was covered by a large piece of rock that had broken away from the outer architrave and was only leaning against the upper surface of the backfill in front of the façade. Any attempt to move it on our part might have caused the breaking away of further fragments. Once again, we had to summon up a little patience.

Thus, we learned the tomb owner’s name not thanks to an inscription on the architrave (Fig. 92), which in antiquity greeted every visitor entering the tomb, but through a small crevice in the backfill at the level of the upper jamb of the upper edge of the entrance to the chapel. With a lamp in hand, we looked into the dark interior and saw the main scene, situated opposite the entrance, carved onto the eastern wall (Fig. 95). The two symmetrically designed representations of the deceased were accompanied by his name written with hieroglyphs: Nyankhnefertum, or “[One] who is the life of Nefertum”.8

This exceptionally rare theophoric name (containing the name of a god) bears that of a youthful deity, Nefertum, who in the Memphite triad of gods was the child of the god Ptah and the Goddess Sekhmet. Similarly as many other important religious centres of ancient Egypt, Memphis – the country’s capital during the Old Kingdom – created its own cosmogony and pantheon of deities, at the head of which stood the divine couple. Ptah, guardian of artists and artisans, was portrayed as a mummiform figure with characteristic headwear reminiscent of a swimming cap. He was the Memphite demiurge, while Sekhmet, a goddess with the head of a lioness, was his spouse. Their son Nefertum was associated with a child crouching on a lotus flower or was simply depicted as a lotus flower. As we were soon to find out, the owner ←258 | 259→of this newly discovered tomb, identified with Nefertum through his name, also expressed this religious kinship in his iconography. Aside from the tomb we discovered, the name Nyankhnefertum has only been attested once, on an architectural fragment originating from the tomb of another Memphite nobleman, found today in the university collection in Strasbourg.9 We do not know where he was buried.

When we finally revealed the entire architrave with the ‘ideal biography’ above the entrance to the tomb chapel (Figs. 157158), we discovered that the tomb owner also had a so-called ‘beautiful name,’ Temi, which was something like a nickname, an abbreviated version of his main name. It appears in the scene which is a type of ‘calling card’ sculpted at the end of the inscription (Fig. 156).10 The scene depicts the deceased walking forward carrying a long staff, a symbol of his stateliness. Temi is accompanied by his wife holding him by the shoulder and the oldest son shown as a small figure turning his head towards his parents and gripping his father’s staff with his hand. This can be interpreted as a visible sign of the passing down of his father’s inheritance. The son’s name was Meruka.

The inscription on the architrave is constructed similarly to the ‘ideal biography’ sculpted in his neighbour’s tomb.11 It was arranged in four lines read from right to left. The style of the hieroglyphs also betrays the source of inspiration. The signs carved into the sunken relief are lacking in almost any inner modelling. Even though no traces of polychromy have been preserved, it can be assumed that – similarly as in his neighbour’s case – the hieroglyphs were monochromatically blue or celadon in colour, contrasting with the white background, following the pattern used for the Pyramid Texts. The composition of the inscription, similarly as the size of the signs and their style, betray that this was one and the same sculpting workshop in the case of both tombs, and perhaps even the same artist.

However, the message contained in the inscriptions is different in each of them, even though some formulations typical for this category of text are repeated. The first two lines contain an invocation to various deities, which along with the king were considered to be the ‘sponsors’ of offerings and graces given to the deceased.12 Through his offering, Anubis, “who is in the embalming place, who is upon his hill, Lord of the Sacred Land,” is to ←259 | 260→secure the burial of the deceased in the Western Desert, “after he has become exceedingly old, as an honoured one by the Great God.” The offering from Osiris, Lord (of the town of) Busiris, will ensure that the tomb owner “may travel upon the beautiful roads upon which honoured ones used to travel before the Great God.” This same Osiris will guarantee that offerings for the deceased be brought “on the Opening of the Year Festival, on the Festival of [the God] Thoth, on the Beginning of the Sacred Year Festival, on the Wag Festival, Festival of [the God] Sokar, the Great Festival, the Festival of [the God] Min, the Beginning of the Month and Beginning of Half Month Festival, … on [every] Festival, every day, in eternity, as for an honoured one by Anubis, Lord of Burial in the necropolis.”

In the next part of the text, we can read that the tomb owner, “honoured by the king and by the Great God, is one who is loved among the people, the one who does justice beloved by the god”.13 Next, the deceased states, “I was the one who spoke well and reported well, the one who did what the god likes. I was the one who caused peace and who lived in a state of reverence. I revered my father and my mother”.14

The inscription ends with the deceased’s most important titles: “God’s servant at the pyramid of Unas, the sole companion, privy to the secrets of the king in his every cult place, inspector of the Great House, companion of the house, privy to the secrets of the House of the Morning … overseer of the king’s repast, overseer of the noble places of the Great House … overseer of linen.” In the scene ending the inscription, the tomb owner is described as the “Companion of the Great House, Temi”.15

The differences between the texts written on the architrave in the two neighbouring tomb chapels are small but significant. Fefi focuses on himself, boasts and threatens others; Temi is more modest, while his ‘ideal biography’ is primarily filled with religious content. He does not flaunt his own virtues but rather presents his titulature in a detached manner, as these in fact are not titles of the highest rank. While the vizier in spe lists one of his three names at the end of each line, his neighbour never uses his ‘great name,’ exclusively referring to his sobriquet, which introduces an atmosphere of some ease. We see the first as a bit of a buffoon, while the other man seems more like an éminence grise, the pharaoh’s trusted man, who knows his place in line.

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Nonetheless, their tombs are similar in size and shape (Il. 22).16 It is obvious that their owners began their careers at the same level. As a result, we expect not only the architraves above the entrance but also the remaining elements of the decoration on the façade’s frontal wall to be similar. What a surprise for an archaeologist when, in the course of further exploration, a plain wall is revealed, without a single relief. Beneath the architrave, two parallel planes have been prepared for a relief, which, however, was never sculpted (Fig. 158). The uneven surface of the rock was levelled with a layer of white plaster, identically as was done in the vizier’s tomb, but not a single hieroglyph was carved into this surface.17 The size of both panels prepared for decoration is almost the same as in his neighbour’s chapel; thus, we could expect that the concept for decorating the wall would have been identical in both cases (Fig. 92). Already in the façade of Temi’s cult chapel, we can see that its creators were inspired by the shape of the slightly earlier tomb, which also belonged to a priest responsible for the funerary cult at a pyramid. In this respect, the owners of both tombs were colleagues. They remained such until the older one, Fefi, made an unexpected career as a vizier at the court of the enigmatic pharaoh with a dubious reputation. At that point, they must surely have parted ways.

If the decorations on the front wall of Temi’s tomb had been finished, its middle register would doubtless have also contained a text with the features of a testament, while at the bottom we would have seen two symmetrical processions consisting of representations of the tomb owner, as was originally conceived in Fefi’s tomb. So why was the realisation of this part of the decoration abandoned? Had Temi passed away early, before the sculpting work was completed? Suffice to enter the interior of the cult chapel to discover that this might not have been the only reason.

As we removed the rubble from the chapel interior, the entire eastern wall was revealed, located opposite to the entrance (Figs. 9599).18 It was hard to believe that – against all the contemporary canons of decoration – the whole surface of the wall was filled with a scene portraying a procession that we had expected to find in the bottom register of the façade. Eight figures of almost natural height were depicted in two four-person groups, arranged symmetrically on both sides of the axis in the form of two vertical columns ←261 | 262→of text (Figs. 9697). In terms of its composition, the image is a copy of the bottom register in the façade of the vizier’s cult chapel.19 However, it is much larger than the original, and with much richer iconography. While Fefi is portrayed eight times alone (Il. 5; Fig. 41), Temi appears always with his family members, but exclusively his sons and his only wife, bearing the name Seshseshet, very popular among the court aristocracy of this period. In particular, this difference between the original scene (Fefi) and its copy (Temi) seems to be a diagnostic for understanding why – upon copying the prototype – the owner of the younger tomb did not locate this scene on the chapel façade, even there was prepared space.

We have some evidence leading us to believe that the atmosphere in the Temi’s numerous monogamist family was completely different than that in Fefi’s household, where as many as four wives competed for the favour of the man of the house, who was probably officially connected to the royal harem (Fig. 53). We have also seen earlier how much impact on the male progeniture and especially on the vizier’s oldest descendant had the bitter conflict between the sons that arose after their father’s death. It seems that this conflict was both a struggle over their father’s inheritance and a clash between two opposing political groups. Temi, who at the time must have been quite young and was preparing his ‘house of eternity’ in the direct vicinity, must have been witness to the scandalous family scenes that played out in front of his neighbour’s tomb. In order to protect his own family from a similar tragedy and his tomb from the blasphemous activities of iconoclasts, he decided to move his ‘family portrait’ from the façade to the cult chapel interior, enlarging it and enrichening it by adding new content. Did he manage thus to ‘trick the winds of history,’ which along with the progressing political decomposition carried the collapse of ethical norms and the disintegration of the family? I shall try to answer this question right after presenting the tomb.

At the moment of discovery, the interior of Temi’s funerary chapel was to a large extent covered in rubble (Fig. 93).20 However, this was not normal debris. It became a testimony to the tragedy that must have taken place here at some point after the funeral, probably towards the end of the Sixth Dynasty, if we consider pottery records. First, we saw an enormous hole in ←262 | 263→the northern wall of the chapel and – in front of it – a stone and mudbrick pile of rubble, from which the lid of a reed-plaited coffin protruded.21 To be sure, this was not the coffin belonging to the tomb owner, as the deceased had not been buried in the cult chapel but in the underground part of the tomb. At first, we thought that this had to be a secondary burial from a later period, perhaps even younger by hundreds or thousands of years. The reuse of graves, even royal ones, was in ancient Egypt a widespread practice, while the rubble filling Temi’s chapel was ideal for the purposes of such a burial.

However, when we removed the upper layer of rubble adjacent to the north wall, it turned out that the enormous hole in the rock led directly to… the burial chamber of another ‘house of eternity,’ doubtless later than Temi’s mastaba (Fig. 94).22 The latter’s cult chapel was separated from his anonymous neighbour’s chamber and shaft only by a thin wall hewn out in very brittle rock, left – intentionally or not – by the constructors of the later tomb. As the rock’s thickness between the two structures was additionally weakened in this spot by a few deep vertical clefts, it collapsed into the chapel interior under the pressure of the rubble filling his neighbour’s burial chamber. The reed coffin containing the body of the deceased unexpectedly made its way into the cult place of a person placed much higher in the social hierarchy than the owner of this modest burial. Of course, the cult pottery deposited next to the coffin during the funeral was brought over along with it, carried by the wave of debris. This pottery is highly important for the dating of the coffin.

At this point, a methodological trap appears for the ceramologist or archaeologist: a temptation of dating Temi’s tomb on the basis of these vessels, which nevertheless must be avoided. This challenge is all the more difficult as, more-or-less in the middle of the chapel, rubble from the context of the coffin mixes with the debris left over in this room after the last phase of the cult practiced here after Temi’s death. Separating these two contexts belongs among those moments in the work of an archaeologists when the precise observation of even the smallest of details might be decisive for dating the most important events from the perspective of Old Egyptian eschatology. All the more so, as even a few minutes later, it would not be possible to seize this opportunity once again! One false move of the spatula suffices to squander it. These are precisely those moments when knowledge has to be supplemented by the researcher’s imagination. One without the other is not enough.

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Everything indicates that the collapse of the chapel wall was not a random event caused by the exceptionally bad quality of the rock. The event had obviously been ‘aided’ by looters who at some point after the funeral – but still during the Old Kingdom – had decided to conduct the ‘redistribution’ of treasures they expected to find in Temi’s burial chamber. However, they made a few professional errors, or they perhaps gave in to the temptation of reaching conclusions per analogiam, which in our times has led astray many an archaeologist. Noting that among the three ‘false doors’ carved into the chapel’s west wall, only one had actually been completed by the artists, including its magnificent polychromy, and that it was precisely in front of this ‘door’ that a heavy stone slab in the shape of an offering table with bas-relief hieroglyphic inscriptions was located (Fig. 100), they must have assumed that the masked entrance to the shaft with the burial chamber at its bottom must be located underneath this slab. All the more so as there were no cult places or outlines of any shafts on the surface of the rock in front of the remaining ‘false doors’ (Figs. 135136).23 The thieves uprooted the very heavy slab of the offering table from under the ‘door,’ located in the north-western corner of the chapel, carried it a few metres away and deposited it in the opposite corner.24 When they began removing the thick mud pugging covering the surface of the rock in front of the beautifully polychromed ‘false door,’ the adjacent north wall of the chapel could no longer take the tremors caused by their violent actions. It collapsed and shattered into hundreds of smaller and larger pieces. The looters probably managed to escape the deadly avalanche or, at any rate, we did not find any skeletons in the debris, which would have testified to the additional tragedy that sometimes occurred during the exploration of burial shafts. The displaced offering table, partially buried under the rubble, survived in its secondary position for four millennia, until the tomb was discovered by our mission. Its conservation lasted two years, after which we placed it back in its original spot in front of the richly polychromed „door” (Fig. 100).25

It must be objectively stated that we, the discoverers, also succumbed to the hope that the pugging on which the offering table slab had originally been located might conceal the crown of the burial shaft. However, our logic turned out to be just as erroneous as the false hopes of the ancient looters. However, in our turn, we considered it to be a tragedy for academic research that in the process of shattering into hundreds of pieces, the northern wall had lost the middle part of its decoration, containing an especially important ←264 | 265→document. This was an enormous offering list, with great care carved out in a style reminiscent of the Pyramid Texts, already encountered in some of the inscriptions decorating the walls of the cult chapel belonging to Fefi (= Merefnebef).26 The names of individual offerings and rituals were written with hieroglyphs using the sunken relief technique and filled with a greenish-blue paint that was very distinct against the white background of the inscription. The larger fragments of the shattered decoration enabled the – partly purely theoretical – reconstruction of a large fragment of this ‘list,’ but many small elements of these ‘puzzles’ to this day remain the object of the painstaking work of our Egyptian colleague, a beginning restorer named Ragab Mohammed Ragab.

Only the western part of the north wall, which depicts a typical scene of an offering table, is well preserved (Fig. 94).27 The deceased is seated on a sophisticated chair, with legs stylised as lion paws. A cushion lies on the backrest. Temi’s long wig is shoulder-length, while his short, rectangularly-ended goatee seems to be a miniaturised version of the beard characteristic for representations of the pharaohs, but also for those of one of the Egyptian gods, the Memphite demiurge Ptah. It cannot be excluded that this detail characterises the deceased’s akh, i.e. his posthumous incarnation in many ways similar to a divine being. Temi is reaching for the offering table with his right hand, on which a row of half-loaves of bread is depicted, stylised to such a degree that they are more reminiscent of long bird feathers than delicious baked goods. They are standing on the extensive top crowning a tall cylindrically-shaped stand. The space on both sides of the stand is filled with a schematic inscription: “a thousand alabaster vases, a thousand [pieces of] linen” and “a thousand te breads, a thousand pat breads, a thousand [jars] of beer, a thousand cattle, a thousand birds.” This concept of culinary perfection is repeated in the tombs of many Egyptian dignitaries.

So that no one should have any doubts as to what items are referred to in the ‘offering list,’ they were illustrated in a frieze depicting the sequence of gifts, located just underneath the ‘list’.28 It begins with the representation of two sets of ritual vessels used to wash the hands. Each of them contains a tall bowl, called a shauti in Egyptian, and a juglet with a long-curved funnel, referred to by the name hezmeney. This set is frequently encountered within the archaeological material we found in the tombs of ←265 | 266→the noblemen (Fig. 84). It appears both among the luxury red-slip pottery vessels with meticulously polished surfaces,29 as well as among the miniature vessels made from copper.30 The middle part of the frieze was destroyed along with the middle fragment of the ‘offering list;’ however, a fragment of its ending has been preserved.31 We can see a decorative semi-globular vase, with flowers growing out of it, in turn lotus buds and fully developed lotus calyxes. The vase has a high base which becomes thicker as it nears the bottom. Bales of canvas are standing next to this beautiful vessel, with the sequence ending in a small offering table with a slender leg, on top of which there is a pile of fruit and vegetables (?). Near the table we can see two vessels: a characteristic tall beer jar and beaker most probably filled with berries.

The bottom register of the relief and polychrome decoration on the northern wall has also not been damaged (Fig. 94 and 153154).32 It contains a seemingly banal scene in terms of its content and composition, but extremely important due to the accompanying hieroglyphic inscriptions. It depicts a procession of twelve men bearing various offerings for Temi. Each of the figures is described in short, but upon closer observation, we can see that these are not inscriptions made at the same time as when the sculptor was working on the images of the offering bearers. At that point, the figures had remained anonymous, while the empty surface around them was painted black. It looks as of the artist was afraid of conclusive attribution, which raises the suspicion that it was created during a time of confusion, perhaps even characterised by volatile public opinion and an ambiguous situation within Temi’s seemingly model family. The inscriptions were added on later, while their content is somewhat surprising in the context of the remaining parts of the decoration. In terms of their form, the hieroglyphs betray a certain haste and chaos, while it seems that in terms of their content they respond to a specific order placed. The first five figures were described as the tomb owner’s sons, while the remaining are hemu-ka, i.e. priests of the funerary cult. In accordance with adopted iconographic patterns, the two ←266 | 267→first figures carry the most important offerings, i.e. oxen haunches, while the five subsequent ones bear live geese held one hand by the throat and with the other at the base of the wings, while the remainder are carrying various victuals and flower bouquets. The last in line is carrying a small gazelle on his shoulders. It is interesting that he bears the tomb owner’s ‘beautiful name,’ Temi.33 This in itself suggests that the identification of each of the offering bearers has been carefully thought through.

The anachronism of the inscriptions in relation to the representations deserves at this point a digression concerning the royal sphere. A similar phenomenon has been attested as occurring 1500 years later in the beautiful reliefs made by one of the first rulers of the Twenty-Sixth dynasty.34 They were discovered over a hundred years ago within the palace constructed in ca. 580 BC for the Pharaoh Apries in Memphis, i.e. nearby Saqqara. Sculpted with exceptional finesse on limestone blocks of the best quality, they depict episodes from scenes linked to a royal jubilee, organised in general on the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh’s reign. Every detail of these reliefs has been refined with exceptional precision and mastery. They lack only one element: the royal names in the cartouches. These oval figures, normally performing the function of the ruler’s ‘visiting card,’ in this case have remained empty, while the blocks containing these masterpieces of art, subsequent parts of a monumental gate that would lead to the palace or temple, were deposited in an underground cache in front of the royal residence.

To this day, we do not know for which of the two rulers competing at the time for the Egyptian throne it was made, Apries or Amasis. The artist clearly did not wish to risk a hurried attribution. The identification of the pharaoh is today additionally made more difficult by the fact that the reliefs from Memphis are evidence of the archaising tendency characterising the art of its period. Their style suggests that this artefact was something like a copy of a prototype from the Middle Kingdom, i.e. earlier by 1000 years. However, the person who discovered ‘Apries’s gate’ did not know anything about the widespread archaisation in the art of the so-called Saite period (the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty). He interpreted and published his discovery simply as an object from the Middle Kingdom, more specifically that of Pharaoh Sesostris I.35 It took decades of research to arrive at the truth, which still does ←267 | 268→not explain the issue fully. Perhaps the situation was similar in the case of the anachronism of the inscriptions labelling the procession of offering bearers in Temi’s tomb? However, here finally someone appeared who without a hint of hesitation added legends to an uncertain reality. Who was this daredevil? Let us set aside this case based on circumstantial evidence until the next chapter.

The decoration on the two adjacent walls in the north-western corner of Temi’s cult chapel looks much like two adjacent sides of an open book (Fig. 100).36 Similar in their composition, they supplement each other in terms of their content. As on the above-mentioned north wall, the main motif in the relief sculpted on the northern part of the west wall is the scene of the offering table, while everything surrounding it concerns the problem with the deceased’s diet.37 Temi, also depicted here with a long wig and a short beard, is wearing an apron, while his neck is adorned with a broad necklace. He is seated on an identical chair as in the previous scene and is reaching with his right hand for a chunk of bread lying on the table. However, his hand has moved slightly further than in the antithetic scene. Is it the next frame in the same paused film? This is an impression we have frequently looking at the sequences of scenes decorating the walls of Egyptian tombs and temples.

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However, the ‘offering list,’ accompanying the scene of the offering table on the north wall, was replaced here with an image illustrating identical content with exceptional precision (Figs. 102–104).38 In three parallel registers, ←273 | 274→the entire diet of the deceased was depicted, a wealth of gifts squeezed most often into large ritual vessels with fanciful shapes, but always having a short foot, sometimes placed on low stools with rectangular contours, with cross bars beneath the top surface. The fruit, among which we can identify figs, grapes and berries, are intermingled with pastries in various shapes, pieces of meat, among which calf heads stand out, and also vegetables, flowers and ritual vessels. Some motifs already known from the frieze underneath the ‘offerings list’ on the neighbouring wall have been repeated, including the hemispheric bowl from which lotus flowers grow, but also a small table, on which sets of hand-washing vessels stand. Everything is depicted in accordance with the Egyptian principles of aspectivism, i.e. such a view that the diagnostic features of each object enable its immediate identification. Every group of offerings is composed in such a way that they seem to tightly fit a square or rectangle surface, in which a real horror vacui prevails, i.e. a sense of fear of empty space. Even the smallest fragment of decorated surface has been filled completely. The first group clings to the chunks of bread found at the offering table, which suggests that in fact these offerings have also been gathered on the table. The sequence then goes on to develop further in three strips from the bottom to the top, again like the frames of a long, and very boring, film.

←274 | 275→ ←275 | 276→ ←276 | 277→ ←277 | 278→

The pile of offerings depicted on the offering table clashes with the order characterising the pile depicted below it (Fig. 101).39 Similar victuals lie here in apparent disarray, but the impressionistic horror vacui does not stop the artist from rendering every detail with exceptional precision. Aside from the items already portrayed on the table, we see a few specimens of birds, mainly geese, such as the ones carried by the offering bearers in the scene on the adjacent wall. Their dangling necks attest that they had also moved on to the realm of Osiris. Other new elements include the enormous oxen haunches and ribs given as offerings. However, this ‘still life’ is not another repetition of the offering list or its supplement, but rather an abbreviated, symbolic depiction of the next episode of the funerary ceremony, i.e. the burning of the offering pile. We can see entire bales of linen, the remains of which we find in the archaeological material as scraps accompanying burnt plants in the beer jars filled with ash and sealed, thrown into the burial shaft towards the end of the ceremony.40

The tomb owner’s eldest son is standing opposite him in front of the pile of offerings, depicted as a small figure carrying a goose (Figs. 101 and 105).41 The gesture made with the hand with which he is holding the bird by the neck shows that this is the moment of taking the goose’s life in offering to his deceased father. The hieroglyphic inscription which fills the space between this figure and the pile of offerings identify him as “his eldest son, wab priest [in] the Great House.” We should take note of this person. The modest size of his silhouette in the described scene does not even begin to suggest the important role he played in the family’s history after his father’s death.

The episode preceding this ceremony has been depicted in the bottom register of the scene, beneath the offering table. As usual in Egyptian reliefs, one should begin the reading of the iconographic and textual ‘comic book’ providing an account according to its chronological sequence from the lowest register. In this case, it is a scene of ritual slaughter depicting two episodes of quartering an ox (Figs. 106–107),42 as if cut out of a longer film, which in its full version sometimes appears on the walls of the tomb. The ←278 | 279→inscriptions accompanying these representations and other genre scenes are completely different from the schematic, pompous inscriptions concerning the tomb owner. They are more reminiscent of a dialogue and stage directions in a theatrical play. In the first episode, a man is standing behind a bull, sharpening a knife on a whetstone. The inscription reads “sharpening a knife.” The bull is lying with his back legs tied together, while one of his front legs is being cut off at the base by a butcher wearing a short apron, who is telling his friend to “hold [it].” The second man is pulling the haunch with all his might, supporting his leg against the animal’s horn. In the second frame of the ‘film,’ entitled “Pulling out the heart,” the butcher is putting his hand deep into the open innards of the bull, while his companion is yet again sharpening the knife for the next operation. The scene ends with an offering bearer carrying a huge severed haunch. His name has been provided: Khekhi. This probably refers to one of Temi’s son’s, who went by this name, i.e. one of Meruka’s younger brothers.

Both described scenes of the offering table are separated by a beautifully polychromed ‘false door,’ the same one from underneath which robbers had ←279 | 280→later pulled out the above-mentioned stone slab (Figs. 100 and 108–109).43 At first sight, the richness of the polychromy is mesmerising. Each hieroglyph in the long inscriptions containing the titulature of the tomb owner is varied in terms of the colours used. They have a symmetrical layout, as do the four figures depicted in the bottom part of the doorjambs and the vertical inscriptions filling their upper part. The middle columns begin with the most important titles: “Servant of god [= priest] of the pyramid of Unas, the sole companion, inspector of the house of the king, privy to the secrets of the divine word.” The oval cartouche containing the name of King Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, has been especially beautifully executed (Figs. 108–109).44 The ←280 | 281→intensely blue frame contrasts with the yellow background of the interior, from which the red, celadon and black hieroglyphs clearly stand out.

However, when we compare Temi’s ‘false door’ with an identical element in the decoration of Fefi’s tomb (Fig. 43),45 the form of the first seems to be quite coarse. How elegantly the celadon monochromy of the hieroglyphs presents itself against the red background with red dots, imitating Aswan granite, in the tomb of the vizier-upstart! This style shows ties with the classical tradition from the preceding dynasty.46 In the course of less than one generation, the pauperisation of aesthetic preferences has occurred, an expression of which is the motley of bright colours against a yellow background, attested on the ‘false door’ in the north-western corner of Temi’s chapel. As usual, this folk style does however introduce a certain freshness and naiveté, visible, for instance, in the very varied modelling of the male face depicted en face, which is a hieroglyph with the phonetic value her (Figs. 110–120).47 Wherever the polychromy of this sign has been preserved, the facial features are modelled to a level of seeming almost a caricature. In some cases, the painter even added something like a ‘barber’s moustache,’ which departs significantly from the classical model of the sign her (cf. iconographic variety of another hieroglyph in the same tomb (Figs. 121–131)). The artist’s lack of constraints is all the more surprising as this head could be associated with the name of the god Horus, which is indicated not only by its phonetic value but also by the yellow colour of its skin, in the convention of Egyptian art characterising in principle the female sex or associated with gold.48 To this day, Egyptologists cannot agree to an unequivocal interpretation of this exception to the rule, which in today’s times we would without hesitation categorise as gender-bending. If we are indeed to see a feminised feature in a male face, there would be no problems in finding its source: it is enough to bring to mind the homosexual episode in Horus’s mythological biography, known from the Pyramid Texts. If, however, the yellow colour of the face was instead to have suggested connotations of gold, the explanation is even more obvious: “golden Horus” was a term so rooted in the religious imagination of the Egyptians that even one of the five names of the pharaoh was referred to as “the name of golden Horus.”

However, the artist who covered the reliefs with paint in Temi’s cult chapel went even further. He also rendered Osiris’s body yellow in the sign determining the name of this god, which is yet another derogation from the rule (Figs. 132–134).49 This hieroglyph depicts the profile of a squatting male figure with the forward-curving beard characteristic for Egyptian gods. Did the painter’s imagination lead to a desire to remind others of the corporal and spiritual ties linking Osiris and Horus, i.e. father and son, representing the same ‘lobby’ in Egyptian mythology?

←281 | 282→ ←282 | 283→ ←283 | 284→

However, original artistic ideas are features not only of the polychromy of the ‘false door’ in Temi’s chapel but also of its composition. Artists also searched for new solutions in this aspect. Two vertical strips of representations adjacent to the ‘door,’ one on the left side, one on the right, are a classical feature of the decoration in the tombs of this period. These columns contain representations and hieroglyphic labels of the holy oils used in the sepulchral ritual. The composition of both strips is usually symmetrical, frequently even analogous. The creator of the decoration in Temi’s chapel decided to add some diversification to this element. On one side of the ‘door,’ he depicted a vertical sequence of four rectangular stools, on which a group of vessels was placed,50 while on the other, he portrayed four offering bearers carrying large vessels with oil (Figs. 100 and 148–149).51 The original inscriptions accompanying these figures have not identified them, as they only contain the schematic formula “Bringing oil [+ name].” However, it turns out that certain retouches were done here later, the content and form of which betray the same culprits as we have already encountered in the alterations made in the bottom register of the decoration on the chapel’s north wall. We shall take a closer look at them later in a wider context. This ←285 | 286→shows that the tomb continued to ‘live’ also after the death of its owner, not only on the occasion of the official cult rituals conducted here.

Even more original solutions were introduced by the creators of Temi’s tomb in the southern part of his chapel. When, upon entering through the narrow entrance to this exceptional interior, we turn our eyes to the right, we are surprised by the monochromy of its entire southern part.52 The painter did not manage to complete his task before the tomb owner’s death. The southern wall, as well as the southern parts of the east and west walls have no colours, while abundant traces have been preserved of the original sketches and corrections to them, but also of reliefs left at various stages of their execution. There can be no doubt that half of the chapel was decorated later than the northern part, and Temi’s death had startled the contractors. Did it surprise them completely? If we take a look at the graphic jokes that they indulged in while sculpting these inscriptions, we have the impression that they no longer anticipated any sort of supervision, either from their master or from members of Temi’s family, and definitely not from the tomb owner. This has been taken advantage of by archaeologists and art historians, who can now trace the subsequent stages in the creative process of ancient sculptors and painters. Primarily, the southern part of the west wall makes a shocking impression (Figs. 135138).53 As if there were an insufficient number of richly polychrome ‘false doors,’ as described above, in the northern part of this wall, the entire southern part has been completely filled with even more of them, also carved into rock. However, there are no offering tables in front of them; thus, we remain unsure whether any sort of ceremonies took place here. It can be assumed that these ‘false doors’ had more of a propagandist character than a cult one. The first surprise is the asymmetrical composition of two adjacent ‘doors’ forming a whole and, as indicated by the analysis of their decoration, supplementing each other in terms of their content.

With some distrust, we discovered that the twin ‘doors’ did not so much adhere to each other, but rather they overlapped. While the northern segment constitutes a classical ‘false door’ with three doorjambs on each side of the axis (Fig. 136),54 the southern one lacks one jamb, i.e. the one that would have made it adjoin the neighbouring ‘door’.55 This cannot be explained as resulting from lack of space on the wall, as its northern edge is a large empty ←286 | 287→surface, exactly the same size as could have fit yet another doorjamb. The choice of an asymmetrical composition was thus intentional and was supposed to serve to present specific content.

While in the Saqqara tombs of the noblemen from the turn of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasty, we can find a few examples of ‘twin false doors,’ the presence of which is motivated by the family relationships of the given mastaba owner, a symmetrical layout is nonetheless always maintained, even when the narrow central jamb is shared by both segments. In such a case, it is divided in half with a vertical line into two fields, of which each belongs to a different ‘door’.56 Temi’s tomb constitutes an exception in these respects. The doorjamb that could be considered to have been the central one, i.e. common for the two segments, belongs only to the north ‘door.’ It was not divided into two symmetrical columns, and its decoration is parallel to the external jamb on the other side of this door’s axis. Why was such an unusual solution applied?

←287 | 288→ ←288 | 289→

We can find a clear message contained in the content of the reliefs decorating the surface of the asymmetrical ‘false doors.’ In the northern segment, i.e. in the fully depicted ‘door,’ Temi always appears alone, six times in the bottom part of the doorjambs, underneath the inscriptions bearing his titulature and name (Fig. 136). The latter is written horizontally just above the figure’s head, while the titulature fills the vertical column. Four among the six representations show Temi with a sceptre in his hand, which emphasised his position. His figure on this ‘false door,’ predominant, is also taller than in the neighbouring one. This is clearly about emphasising his greatness and dignity.

On the southern ‘door,’ covered in part by the neighbouring ‘door,’ the tomb owner is always shown in the company of one of two members of his family, his wife named Seshseshet or the oldest son bearing the name Meruka, whom we have already encountered above (Figs. 137138). The married couple appears both on the miniature offering table scene sculpted in the rectangular panel in the upper part of the ‘door’ and – thrice – in the bottom part of the doorjambs. Seshseshet is described as a priestess of the Goddess Hathor. In each of these scenes, the wife is shown embracing her husband with her arm. The tiny figure of the son accompanies his father in the scenes in the two symmetrical middle doorjambs. In a gesture parallel to his parent’s one, Meruka is grasping Temi’s long staff with his hand, as if taking his father’s place in the mortal world. The father’s feet overlap those of his son’s: only the oldest male descendant was portrayed in this way.

←289 | 290→

The significance of the whole is very legible: thanks to his relationship with his life companion, the tomb owner continues his earthly existence through his first-born son, much the same as the god Osiris was regenerated through Isis in the form of his son, Horus. This is the earthly aspect of Temi’s programme for immortality. In order to accentuate this correlation, the ‘family false door’ was attached to the tomb owner’s solo ‘false door,’ in which one of the jambs overlaps with the former one. A similar though purely symbolic highlighting of the oldest son is repeated in the decoration of Temi’s chapel many times over (Fig. 99). In life, it must have been translated into material values, and this could not have been well received by his younger brothers. This is best observable in the panoramic family scene taking up the entire east wall.

←290 | 291→ ←291 | 292→

This exceptional panorama (Figs. 9697),57 the first scene we can see upon entering the tomb chapel, has supplanted various important and beautiful motifs decorating this same place on the east wall in Fefi’s tomb (Figs. 44 and 4650),58 which was in fact the prototype for Temi. We have neither the procession of female figures personifying land estates nor the butchery with episodes of slaughtering animals, and not even scenes of hunting for wild feathered game or a Nilotic landscape and fishing. Only the symmetrical central motif has been retained, which – however – has acquired here completely new content (Fig. 95).59 Similarly as in the case of Fefi’s tomb, the tomb owner has been represented twice in a symmetrical arrangement. Only the accompanying figures are different, and – as a result – they are all the more significant. While in Fefi’s tomb, his mother was predominant, represented on both sides of the axis of symmetry as a person crouched at her son’s feet,60 in Temi’s case, a different person has been portrayed in each of the two symmetrical scenes: on one side (the northern) – his only wife, while on the opposite one – his oldest son. This difference in emphasis says a lot about the family of each of the noblemen neighbouring each other after death. In the family of the polygamist with four harpist spouses, the main role was played by his mother. His talented life companions, competing, perhaps even brutally, for the favour of their husband whose career had suddenly sky-rocketed, had been clearly eclipsed by the mother. Their mother-in-law had probably treated them as a family harem; thus, it would be difficult to expect currents of affection to have flowed between the women. In all probability, the politics of the tomb owner’s overbearing mother had been the source of the conflicts that had borne such tragic fruit following Fefi’s death.

In the decoration of Temi’s cult chapel, his mother does not appear at all. Not only has she been omitted in the ‘family panorama’ on the east wall but she has also been ignored completely in other scenes and inscriptions. Her monogamous son must have repressed her from his memory, perhaps mindful of the ill-fated role the tomb owner’s mother had played in his neighbour’s family. We should remember that the iconographic programme of the reliefs and paintings in the tomb chapel was chosen personally by its owner as such decorations were made during his lifetime. There should be no doubt that he would have wanted to immortalise his family in accordance with his own wishes; thus, this is rather an image of an idyll than a reflection ←292 | 293→of the actual relations in place in the household. In Temi’s case, two people we have already encountered on a ‘false door’ on the west wall clearly share pre-eminence, i.e. his wife and his oldest son. Despite what might appear to be the case at first glance, these two did not play equivalent roles in the family. On the east wall, Temi’s wife has been depicted once again (Fig. 96), in an identical crouched position, perhaps under the influence of the prototype of the two representations of the mother in the middle of the east wall in Fefi’s chapel; however, this time she is depicted once in a secondary scene, ensuing immediately after the symmetrical middle image (Fig. 96).61 This is the second segment in the northern sequence of the four representations of the tomb owner. In none of the two scenes is his wife Temi’s only companion as always one of the younger sons is standing on his other side.

The oldest male descendant is treated in a completely different manner. Meruka is portrayed within this gigantic ‘family portrait’ four times, always one-on-one with his father (Fig. 99),62 as if this representation was supposed to illustrate one of the most frequently applied epithets in the titulature of the noblemen: “sole companion.” Therefore, half of the eight segments constituting this panorama have been dedicated to the first-born son. As if this was not enough, the location of these four elements is by no means accidental. The logic behind the choice of the figures is clearly visible in every pair of symmetrically arranged scenes. Whenever the composition presents the tomb owner with two figures on one side of the axis, i.e. two sons or his wife and one of his male descendants, in an analogous spot on the opposite side only the father with his oldest, first-born son is depicted. Not once do the two symmetrical scenes contain an analogous motif, for example, only the first or only the second of the two above-listed iconographic variants. Thus, this was about maintaining a certain equilibrium of power, as if in fear that the first-born might feel resentful as a result of the favour shown to his younger brothers. He controls everything.

This is a programmatic emphasis with a message more powerful than the presence of this son on the above-described ‘false doors.’ It is clear that he played the dominant role in the family, and that the entire inheritance would fall to him. Out of all of Temi’s male progeniture, only he is depicted in one of the segments of the east wall in such a way that his feet overlap his father’s, while his hand clasps the long staff, the symbol of power and dignity, held by the latter ←293 | 294→(Fig. 99).63 This is nothing else but an enlarged copy of the iconographic motif from the above-described overlapping ‘false doors’ (Fig. 137). This copy is the first image to the left in the sequence of scenes on the east wall.64 It appears here almost as if as a manifesto. It is yet another piece of evidence of how precisely each detail of the decoration was addressed before work on its making was initiated. It can be interpreted as an attempt by the tomb owner at petrifying his own vision of reality, corresponding to his wishful thinking.

But history does not like to stand still. Panta rhei, as Heraclitus of Ephesus, one of the greatest Greek philosophers, was to state many centuries later. The current reality is not the reality of tomorrow. As we shall soon find out, even the provident Temi could not evade this truth.

Nonetheless, the design of the east wall in the tomb chapel of this nobleman leads us first to another thought: what happened to the beautiful and important scenes that were sculpted into the east wall of its prototype, i.e. Fefi’s tomb chapel (Figs. 44 and 4649)? Had Temi dispensed completely with them in the new version of the decoration? Reminiscences of some motifs can be found on the south wall, which became something like a synthesis of the content included in the predecessor’s chapel in the reliefs of two walls neighbouring each other, the east and the south one. As in the prototype, the image of the tomb owner seated next to his wife, observing preparations for a feast, constitutes the main motif (Figs. 51 and 139).65 A procession heading towards the couple has been depicted in three horizontal registers. In the upper one, three papyrus boats have been shown carrying a huge load of geese (Figs. 140141).66 In each of them, three men described as “fowlers” stand; the first and the third are shapely oarsmen with long poles in their hands, while a slightly portly nobleman stands between them, described as “overseer of the hunting of wild birds,” holding in his hands birds with flapping wings. In each boat, at least one cage full of geese has been depicted. It can be assumed that the procession is returning from a hunt. This is as if the next episode, following the magnificent scene of the fowling in the rushes, portrayed in Fefi’s tomb on the east wall (Fig. 44), an echo of the theme lacking in Temi’s chapel.67 The procession of boats carrying the hunters dominates in terms of its size and dynamism over the compositions represented in the lower registers.

←294 | 295→ ←295 | 296→ ←296 | 297→ ←297 | 298→

The middle one presents a procession of nine people also bearing live geese. It begins with two women in long robes, presenting not only live birds but also an armful of lotus flowers (Fig. 142).68 Only these two figures are accompanied by hieroglyphic inscriptions sculpted into the surface of the rock; each of the two ladies is described as “his beloved daughter, the king’s acquaintance.” The first woman’s name is Khenut, the second’s – Metjut. It is interesting that space was lacking for them to be included in the huge ‘family tableau’ on the east wall. Clearly, they did not have as much significance for the tomb owner as his male progeniture; perhaps they should even have been glad they were included at all in their father’s chapel. They form a group with the male figure striding behind them, who – like them – is carrying a goose and an armful of lotus flowers. In front of this offering bearer, a protruding rock surface has been preserved with a clearly outlined contour, doubtless prepared for the sculpting of the inscription/visiting card. However, the inscription was never actually made. This might be the representation of one of the sons accompanying their father in the subsequent segments on the east wall (Figs. 9598). But it also cannot be excluded that yet another of his children has been portrayed here, so insignificant that the artist did not go to the trouble of identifying him with an inscription. Or perhaps he had justified doubts whose name should be written here? If this was the case, then this surely could not have been a depiction of the oldest son.

The offering made of lotus flowers presented by Temi’s three children is significant. As mentioned above, this flower was the attribute of Nefertum, the child-god in the Memphite triad, whose name appears in Temi’s ‘great name:’ Nyankhnefertum meaning “The one who is Nereftum’s life.” Therefore, the lotus flower identified the tomb owner with the son of the Memphite demiurge, the god Ptah. The fact that in the described scene Temi, seated in the company of his spouse, is sniffing this particular flower should be treated as a clear allusion to these associations (Fig. 139).69 This is probably one of those he received from his children.

We are dealing with one of the rare cases in Old Kingdom art when a man was depicted holding a lotus in his hand, as this is usually characteristic for a woman, e.g. a priestess of Goddess Hathor. The sequence of offering bearers in the middle register of the decoration on the southern wall, a motif very rare in Temi’s tomb chapel, might bring to mind associations with the numerous processions depicted in his neighbour’s tomb, e.g. the sequence ←298 | 299→of females personifying the land estates from which victuals were taken to upkeep the cult of the deceased.70

The bottom register of the decoration on the south wall is the longest as it spans the entire width of the wall, even reaching under the chair on which the married couple is seated. It contains a very compressed image of the feast, stripped of details, while its sumptuousness had delighted in the banquet scene on an analogous wall in Fefi’s chapel (Figs. 5154, 139 and 143).71 In Temi’s case, it was limited to showing two female singers clapping out the rhythm with their hands, seven dancers making the simplest dance steps, a type of ‘walked’ dance with their arms raised upwards, a quartet of crouching musicians, including two harpists, and a dwarf leading the tomb owner’s favourite pets, a monkey and a dog. The importance of the latter is confirmed by the fact that his name was carved into the wall, Iakhi.72

Each of the three registers of this monotonous, linear decoration was left by the artists at a different stage of incompletion. The work by the upper register of the relief, depicting the boats, was left at the earliest phase (Figs. 140141 and 144–145). The contours of the figures bear many traces of the original sketch, made on the surface of the rock, which has not even been carefully smoothened. We can see that the first drawing was made with a brush that has left behind a thick red line. The artist then ran a thin stylus on this base, which specified the contour of the figures with a black line for the sculptor (Figs. 144–145).73 This last person had only managed to cut out a layer of rock to the level of the background, so that the relief of the figures has angular, rectangular edges, while numerous traces of the chisel have been preserved in the surface of the background. In the middle register of the decoration, the sculptors went a step further. They removed traces of the original sketch and smoothed the contours of the convex relief, but they did not have time to model all the details in the layer of stone (Fig. 142). For example, the protrusion from which the inscription identifying the son carrying the goose and armful of lotus flowers should have been carved has remained as a block.

The relief in the lowest register, representing the artistic part of the feast (Fig. 143),74 can be considered almost completed, even though the sculpting of the relief just above the floor required an almost reclined position during the work. This hindrance took its toll on the artistic level of the relief. Even ←299 | 300→though all of the figures have naturally rounded contours and a smooth surface, the details have been done in a very cumulative manner. The sensual dancers are almost completely lacking breasts, which in other Egyptian reliefs emphasise their beauty and grace. The facial details have been almost completely left out in the sculpting. In these respects, the sculptor had probably been counting on the painter, who would have filled in these details with polychromy. Unfortunately, the artist never even made it to this part of the chapel before the tomb owner’s death.

In accordance with the conventions of Egyptian relief, the lowest register of representations should be read as the scene taking place next to the seat on which we can see Temi and his wife (Fig. 139). Their silhouettes dominate over the whole scene in terms of their size, but they do not even begin to rival analogous compositions on the south wall of the vizier’s chapel in terms of the finesse of style and wealth of details (Figs. 5154).75 The somewhat formulaic modelling was imposed by the material, as the wall is split in this spot by a deep vertical crack that had to be filled with a thick layer of plaster in order to even enable the sculpting of anything at all.76 An original detail of this relief involves Temi sniffing a lotus flower.77 An inscription was carved out in front of him containing the tomb owner’s most important titles. In first place in each of the two columns of this standard inscription we have of course the title describing his function as priest at the royal pyramids. This was what he was most proud of. We can read the following: “God’s servant [= priest] at the pyramid of Teti, deputy supervisor of the god’s servants at the pyramid of Unas, inspector of the king’s house, beloved by his lord, inspector of the Great House, privy to secrets, Nyankhnefertum”.78 This is a great testimony of loyalty: primarily of his good relations with the pharaohs, both those who had already passed away (Teti, Unas), and the one still alive (doubtless Pepi I). We shall soon raise the question of whether this loyalty did not go too far.

The epithets describing his wife in the three short columns of text located above her head are equally diagnostic: “His wife, whom he loves, revered by her husband, Seshseshet.”79 None of her honourable functions as the priestess of the Goddess Hathor have been evoked, such as “only adornment of the king,” but the warmth of feelings between the married couple is emphasised. Had someone doubted the strength of their love? Or, perhaps, there was a need ←300 | 301→to mask some episode that would have cast a shadow over the intimate sphere of their relationship? At any rate, this triggered our imagination.

It would be worthwhile to also take a look at Temi’s burial place, seeing as both the ancient looters and experienced archaeologists living almost 4000 years later were deceived by the hope that the shaft with the burial chamber was hewn into the rock below the offering table near the only one of the ‘false doors’ that had been completed by the decorators of the cult chapel. Our excavations showed that, similarly as in the case of his neighbour’s tomb, the large burial shaft, though slightly shallower (over 10 m) than in the vizier’s tomb, was located underneath the mastaba, on the eastern side of the chapel.80 However, there was no sarcophagus in the burial chamber, just a cuboidal hollow in the floor that performed such a function.81 Nonetheless, the pseudo-sarcophagus was covered with a heavy stone slab, made from local limestone, probably in the hopes that it would be resistant to potential looters. However, what was such a trifle for experienced professionals?! The slab was smashed into a few fragments, and one was removed, after which they emptied the inside almost completely. In the difficult times that ensued towards the end of the Sixth Dynasty, the practical Egyptians used this hollow for a secondary burial. The analysis of the pottery preserved next to the very damaged skeleton showed that this might have occurred during the reign of Pharaoh Pepi II, i.e. in the last phase of the Old Kingdom.82 Only the remains of a laconic inscription written using black paint on the frontal face of the sarcophagus lid enable identifying the first owner of this grave. On the uneven stone surface, someone had written the deceased’s ‘beautiful name,’ Temi, in lopsided hieratic script.83

The secondary usage of the shaft, which had originally performed the function of a ritual shaft dug out at a distance of only one metre to the south of the burial shaft, is testimony to the progressing impoverishment of Memphite society in the final phase of the Sixth Dynasty.84 As all shafts of this type, in the original version it did not have a chamber. When later the decision was reached to use it for a burial, an L-shaped hollow was hewn into the rock to fit a body wrapped in bandages. The skeleton along with the remains of its ←301 | 302→expedition to eternity were found by the east wall of the hollow. In accordance with tradition, the entrance to this primitive chamber was closed off, this time using blocks cut from local rock. The remains of other burials have been preserved in the upper part of this shaft, where they were lying in a pile of sand and pebbles. They are the silent witnesses of the progressing degeneration of Egyptian society, ending with the first fall of the pharaonic state in history.

How did the male progeniture of Temi, of whom the loyal servant of the rulers and deities was so proud, behave during these difficult times?


1 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, Warsaw 2010, pl. LX a.

2 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, p. 44, pl. LXXXVI g; Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 97.

3 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pl. LX b, pl. LX b.

4 Z. Godziejewski, “Conservation Work,” in: Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 237–243.

5 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, passim.

6 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 25–80, pls. I–XXXI.

7 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 132–136, fig. 49, pls. LXI–LXV.

8 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex,pp. 143–149, fig. 52, pl. LXX.

9 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex,p. 127, fn. 2.

10 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex,pp. 135–136, fig. 49, pls. LXIII a–c, LXIV h, LXV d.

11 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 70–74, pls. XIV, XXX–XXXVII, XLI; Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 134–136, fig. 49, pls. LXI–LXIV.

12 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 135–136.

13 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 136 (c).

14 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex.

15 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 136 (e), pl. LXIII a–c, LXIV h.

16 K. Myśliwiec, “Fefi and Temi: Posthumous Neighbours (Sixth Dynasty, Saqqara),” in: Kh. Daoud, Sh. Bedier, S. Abd El-Fatah (eds.), Studies in Honor of Ali Radwan (“Supplément aux Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte” 34), Vol. 2, Le Caire 2005, pp. 197–211.

17 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 132–134, fig. 48.

18 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. LX b–d, LXI a–c, LXVII a, LXIX a–b, LXX–LXXXVII.

19 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 83–86, pls. XV–XVI, XXX–XXXII, XXXIV–XXXVI, XXXIX, XLI; K. Myśliwiec, “The Scheme 2 × 4 in the Decoration of Old Kingdom Tombs,” in: Z. Hawass, J. Richards (eds.), The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt, Essays in Honor of D.B. O’Connor (“Supplément aux Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte”36), Vol. 2, Le Caire 2007, pp. 191–205.

20 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. LXVII a, LXIX a.

21 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. LXVII a, LXVIII a–f.

22 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. XXXVII a–b, XXXVIII.

23 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. CXII–CXIII.

24 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pl. LXIX a–b.

25 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. XCIII–XCV.

26 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 169–175, fig. 57–58, pls. LXVII a–b, CIII–CVIII.

27 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. CIII–CV.

28 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 175–176, fig. 58, pls. CIII–CIV, CV b, CVI, CIX c.

29 Rzeuska, Pottery of the Late Old Kingdom, Warsaw 2006, p. 397 (forms 35–38), pl. IX, 2.

30 A. Radwan, Die Kupfer- und Bronzegefässe Ägyptens (von den Anfängen bis zum Beginn der Spätzeit), München 1983, pp. 38–43, Taf. A–D, 9–13, 16–21, 27–44; K. Myśliwiec, with an appendix by Z. Godziejewski, “Saqqara 2010–2011,” Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 23 (2013): Research 2011, p. 37, fig. 3.

31 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 176, pl. CVI.

32 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 176–181, fig. 57, 58, pls. CIX–CXI.

33 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 181 (12), fig. 57, pl. CXI e.

34 K. Myśliwiec, Royal Portraiture of the Dynasties XXI–XXX, Mainz 1988, p. 48 (D.4) and 58, pls. LVIII–LIX a.

35 W. M. F. Petrie, The Palace of Apries, Memphis II, London 1909, pls. II–IX.

36 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. LXVII a, LXXXVIII, XCV.

37 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 153–169, fig. 53, 54, pls. LXXXVIII–XCV.

38 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 155–159, fig. 54, pls. LXXXVIII–XCI c.

39 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 155–156, fig. 54, pl. XCI d.

40 See chapter 7, fn. 34–37.

41 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 154–155, fig. 54, pls. LXXXVIII–LXXXIX and XCI d.

42 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 159–161, fig. 54, pls. LXXXVIII–LXXXIX and XCII a–b.

43 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 165–169, fig. 54, pls. LXXXVIII, XCIII–XCV.

44 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pl. CXLIV a–b

45 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, p. 93 (pls. XVIII, XLIX, L b) and 160 (pls. XXIII, LXXII, LXXIII a, b, f).

46 For example in Mehu’s tomb: H. Altenmüller, Die Wanddarstellungen im Grab des Mehu in Saqqara, Mainz 1998, p. 200 (Taf. 75) and p. 247 (Taf. 95).

47 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. CXXXIII–CXXXIV.

48 K. Myśliwiec, “The Red and Yellow: An Aspect of the Egyptian “Aspective,” pp. 225–238.

49 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pl. CXXXV a–c.

50 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 163–164, fig. 54, pls XCIII–XCV and CI a–d.

51 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 164–165, fig. 54, pls. XCIII–XCV and CII.

52 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pl. CXX

53 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 181–191, fig. 59, pls. CXII–CXIX.

54 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, fig. 59, pl. CXIII.

55 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, fig. 59, pl. CXVII.

56 K. Myśliwiec, “Father’s and Eldest Son’s Overlapping Feet; an Iconographic Message,” in: Z. Hawass, P. Der Manuelian, R.B. Hussein (eds.), Perspectives on Ancient Egypt. Studies in Honour of Edward Brovarski (“Supplément aux Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte” 40), Le Caire 2010, pp. 318–319.

57 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 139–152, fig. 50–51, pls. LXVII, LXIX–LXXXVII; Myśliwiec, “Nobility Marrying Divinity,” figs. 6–7.

58 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 115–149, pls. LIV–LXVI.

59 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 139–140, fig. 52, pl. LXX.

60 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 116–117, pls. XX, XXI, XLI, LXI.

61 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 146–147 (scene 3), figs. 50–51, pls. LXXIV–LXXV.

62 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 145–152 (scenes 5, 6, 7, 8), figs. 50–52, pls. LXXVIII–LXXXV; Myśliwiec, “Nobility Marrying Divinity,” figs. 6a.

63 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 148–149 (scene 5), figs. 50–51, pls. LXXVIII–LXXIX.

64 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, figs. 50–51.

65 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 192–194, fig. 61, pls. CXX, CXXI and CXXIII.

66 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 194–196, fig. 61, pls. CXXII, CXXIV–CXXV.

67 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 122–134, pls. XXI, LXII–LXV.

68 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 196–197, fig. 61, pl. CXXVII.

69 See fn. 65.

70 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 136–138, pls. XX, LIV–LV, LVII, LIX.

71 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 149–159, pls. XXII, LXVII–LXXII.

72 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 198–199, fig. 61, pl. CXXI, CXXX a.

73 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. CXXII, CXXIV–CXXIX.

74 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 198–200, fig. 61, pls. CXXX–CXXXII.

75 Myśliwiec et al., The Tomb, pp. 152–155, pls. XXII, LXVII–LXVIII, LXIX, LXXI.

76 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. CXX–CXXI and CXXIII.

77 See fn. 65.

78 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 194.

79 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 194, fig. 61.

80 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 89–91 (shaft 77), fig. 32, pls. XXXIX–XLIV a.

81 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pls. XL–XLI.

82 T. Rzeuska, “The Pottery,” in: Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pp. 222–223.

83 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, pl. XL.

84 Myśliwiec, Kuraszkiewicz, The Funerary Complex, p. 91, fig. 33, pls. XXXIX a, XLIV–XLV.